It’s cold, and hell is hot

  • Early Francestown worshippers were blessed with the heat from a wood stove similar to this early cast iron stove made by the Caldwell company of Peterborough. Photo courtesy the Monadnock Center for History and Culture—

  • Early Francestown worshippers were blessed with the heat from a wood stove similar to this early cast iron stove made by the Caldwell company of Peterborough. Photo courtesy the Monadnock Center for History and CulturE

Published: 8/16/2018 10:15:38 AM

For Puritans, church was a very serious matter. Not only was it not supposed to be fun, it was not supposed to be comfortable. Misery, it seems, was next to Godliness.

The early settlers often walked several miles to church on Sunday morning, then sat all day in an unheated meeting house listening to lengthy sermons.

Understandably, not everyone was happy with this arrangement, and in Francestown a group of the more progressive townsfolk got together in the fall of 1821 to do something about the lack of warmth.

“A subscription-paper had been started to buy a stove for the meeting house, and the danger from extravagance on the one hand, and from fire on the other, seemed so great as to stir the whole town with excitement!” reports the 1895 town history. “An article had been in the warrant as long before as Mar. 1815 ‘to Purchase stoves for the Meeting-House,’ – which had been promptly and vigorously dismissed.”

Since it seemed certain residents would never vote to spend money for heating the building, the group took it upon themselves to come up with the funds. They raised $86.62, went to Claremont, bought a stove, “and, without authority from the town, did deliberately set it up in the meeting house, and did kindle a fire in it!”

Naturally, this did not go over well with everyone in town. “At once there was a cry of alarm,” the history tells us. “Some sensitive souls thought the dignity of the town had been insulted by this usurpation of rights! Some could not sleep for fear of being burned up! Something must be done!”

And so, a meeting was called for Jan. 12, 1822, at which time those who felt a stove was extravagant and/or a fire hazard hoped townspeople would vote to remove the contraption.

Before the scheduled meeting, however, the congregation had several chances to experience winter church services accompanied by heat: The stove was stoked up each Sunday. “The dreadful Stove worked well, and the fingers were warmed, “the town history states, “and the large, cold church was made much more comfortable, and no buildings were burned; and consequently every sabbath made votes for the ‘Stove Party!’ One or two fearfully cold sabbaths settled the matter!”

By the time the town meeting came along, the stove was a popular addition to Sunday services. The townpeople voted that the “Stove Lately put up in the Meeting House remain for the Present!”

They also voted that no one could take coals from the stove to fill their foot-stoves.

A committee of three men, David Lewis, Levi Bixby and Daniel Lewis, was named to take charge of the stove.

“Francestown was several years ahead of most other towns in this vicinity in warming the church,” the historians wrote. “That first stove and pipe, delivered, cost $117.68. But it puzzles us at this day to know how previously they could live without it, in a house as cold as a New Hampshire winter could made it, men, women and children, all day long! Surely they were willing to ‘suffer hardship’ for the sake of their religion!”


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